A school board in Washington state has voted to adopt race-based discipline, meaning the level of discipline a student receives is based on their race. This means that discipline will no longer be given to students on the basis of behavior, but rather white students will be punished more harshly in the classroom than minorities regardless of one’s conduct.

The Clover Park School District, a district made up of 28% white students, held a board meeting on March 14, at which they voted on a new policy for “cultural discipline”. The policy was passed through by a vote of 3-2.

At this meeting, it was asked that someone further explain the idea of “culturally responsive discipline”. Deputy Superintendent Brian Laubach tried to explain, saying, “Essentially they’re referring there, that you look at ‘are you dispersing discipline across the ethnicities, the racial groups equitably,’ right? So, are you disciplining African-American boys more than you’re disciplining white boys, right? So, are you paying attention to all of that in your data?”


After Laubach’s confusing explanation, board member Anthony Veliz offered an example to try and clarify the policy.

Veliz seemed to explain an approach to this policy in which the teachers go the extra step in their discipline to first ask the students why they broke the rule that they did. This, as Veliz puts it, would help faculty to at least understand why a student might have broken a rule so they can “help guide” them.

“What if, you know, just saying, like, in my background, what if that type of rule that we broke was more acceptable at my house, right, versus your house?” Veliz said. “And, you know, when I’m talking to them, like, ‘hey, you know what, actually, I thought I was OK, I thought it was fine to grab that piece of pizza before anybody else. Because in my house, I’m allowed to do that.’ Right?”

However, to this point, the policy shouldn’t take race into account at all. Rather, the school would be better off teaching its faculty to discipline the students equally and also take the time to talk one-on-one with the disciplined students to understand them and to “guide them”, as Veliz puts it.

Why should it be assumed that only minority students are taught to do things ‘incorrectly’ in their household, but if a white student does something wrong, they are just being ‘bad’? Regardless of race, a student of any ethnicity could be misled by their caregivers and it’s wrong and narrow-minded to assume otherwise.

Another board member, Paul Wagemann, spoke out against this policy, insisting that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their ethnicity. He also argued that this policy needs to be further defined and understood in full before the board votes it through.

“Let’s say we both commit the same offense,” Wagemann explained. “Then the question should be what are the consequences of that offense? And how do we go through that process? That’s how I see it. And to be fair, if we both did the same thing, we should get the same consequence, the way I see it. And I think that’s how most children on the playground like to see it. Most of us, as citizens in our community, like to see it that way. That it’s equal.”

“Do I have to look at his nationality? Where he was born or where he lived? No. He did an offense. I did the same offense. We should suffer the same consequence. And I think that’s what our system should do, at least the way I see it,” Wagemann concluded. He also added that until the board sits down to further define the terms of the policy and fully understand what they are pushing forward, it would be “negligent to send this forward.”

It is up to the schools to prepare children for the real world and the appropriate, acceptable way to act in that world. If they are turning a blind eye to a student’s misbehavior just because of their ethnicity, it would be doing the child a major disservice in the long run.

Sure, teachers shouldn’t be cruel in their punishment methods or humiliate children in front of their peers, but there must be some level of behavioral correction that every student is subject to on an equal level so everyone is treated fairly and is properly prepared for the real world.

Watch the full board meeting:

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